Posie's Blog. Tales of island life on a hebridean hill farm

Posie's Blog. Tales of island life on a hebridean hill farm

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Sheep Shearing




Pillaged malt, it is something of a tradition here on Islay, and the pillaged malt I was talking about in my last blog is perfectly legal and a bit of good fun in aid of charity. The pillagers look for a donation of 24 litres of whisky as they row to each distillery, giving them 250 bottles in all for their auction. A litre of each whisky is also poured into a barrel, which is rolled by a team of men, around the island, who visit each of the distilleries. There is more information on http://www.islaypillage.co.uk/ I think you can even bid for some of the pillaged malt there.

Yesterday was a wet day here again, you can tell the schools have broken up for the summer then; the sunny skies gave way to huge black clouds which left torrential downpours in their wake. The clipping didn’t get done again, although the clippers called round last night for a beer or two. It is always good to catch up with them. Mike travels around the world clipping sheep. He usually brings a couple clippers over from New Zealand to complete the team. Farms around the world welcome him as he moves nomadically about following the summer sunshine. He is a fantastic bloke, very laid back and has been coming to the farm every July for the past 14 years or so.

Everyone really enjoys the clipping; even I have come round to it over the years. I spent my first summer on the farm, watching the happy farmer as he toiled for several days shearing the sheep, my job was to keel their backs with a dab of blue dye to mark them as our sheep. It was a smelly, boring task, especially as it was bright sunny weather and we were stuck in a dark smelly shed. The next year I was even more involved, I stood for hours and rolled the fleeces into tight bundles, putting them into the sack to go away to the woollen mills. That was an even smellier job, although the lanolin from the fleeces is a great conditioner. The following year I saw sense. I retired from all shearing related tasks, leaving the fun to the happy farmer and the happy potters instead, and took myself off to a beach to enjoy the sun. I still didn’t manage to escape the pungent smell of the fleeces in the house though as the happy farmer would return each evening after a days clipping, so after that, before the children were born, I used to time my holiday to the Midlands to coincide with the clipping, only returning once it was well and truly over!

The New Zealand boys have of course transformed the clipping, with several of them on the task, and they come with their own purpose built clipping station the job is completed in an afternoon. The children all gather to help chase the sheep into the pen and there is a buzz in the air with the sound of the electric sheers and the bleating of masses of sheep.

Once the clipping is completed we party in the kitchen as the happy farmer and his team tuck into a big pan of curry and a crate or two of beer.

Let’s hope the weather clears today and the clipping gets done!

Until next time…

11 comments:

laurie said...

"Mike travels around the world clipping sheep."

man, i want that job. is it too late in life to change careers??

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

Do they kizi shearers sing songs like the Ozzie ones do" clip go the shears boys clip clip clip?"

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Blimey, your clipping sounds a lot more fun than ours! Every time I think of NZ shearers I think about one of my favourite mini-series', "The Thorn Birds". Our farm was a far cry from that though!

Blossomcottage said...

Lovely hubby has a cousin who keeps sheep on the Isle of North Uist, and he went there some years ago to help with the shearing, he tells great stories of how much whiskey they all drank whilst they were doing it.
Blossom

muddyboots said...

these kiwi sheep men are pretty amazing, saw some at yorkshire show one year. boy are they fast.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

I just wish we could get started! Still dripping wet! We used to mark our sheep with a 'P' and clot that I am I bought the green version of the marking stuff! We were the laughing stock of the neighbourhood...our sheep and their green 'P's!!

Fennie said...

When my sister and brother-in law had their farm on Shetland I got to clip a sheep (maybe two sheep) - not with clippers but with shears - those curious two bladed things without a hinge. Took and age. These weren't the Shetland sheep whose coats you can just pull off (rueing?) they were proper tough blackfaces or so I seem to remember. Anyway I'm glad to leave that sort of thing to Mike! Lovely blog.

elizabethm said...

sounds like a busy time. I lived in New Zealand for a while and love kiwis. best sense of humour, turn their hand to anything, laid back as you like.

Pondside said...

Thanks for the explanation of the pillaged malt! Sounds like a grand old tradition.
Your shearing sounds like quite the production. I don't blame you for absenting yourself!

Cait O'Connor said...

Can I tag you and ask you to write about how you beat/prevent the blues and then tag five others...
Caitx

@themill said...

But, no matter who does it, you never get rid of that smell!!
My nephew goes to New Zealand to clip every winter.